Where does your dog go when you have to leave him/her during the day?

21 February 2010

American Dog

If dog breeds were put on a TV show and voted on the same way American Idol contestants are, these would be your top ten for 2009:

2009 Most Popular Dogs in the U.S.
1. Labrador Retriever
2. German Shepherd Dog
3. Yorkshire Terrier
4. Golden Retriever
5. Beagle
6. Boxer
7. Bulldog
8. Dachshund
9. Poodle
10. Shih Tzu

From the large and versatile German Shepherd Dog to the small and lovable Shih Tzu, I think it's interesting how diverse the list is. It illustrates how different we are as people and yet there can be a breed for just about anyone who is looking for a dog. Of course, just because a breed is popular doesn't mean it IS right for just anyone, so it's important not to assume that a breed will be a good match for you or that it's easy to keep just because it's common. And unfortunately, many of the breeds in the top ten are suffering from overpopulation. The availability of these popular breeds makes it easy for people to go out and buy the first puppy they see without learning about what that dog was bred to do and what it means to own one. The result is that many, many of these dogs end up in shelters and breed rescues by no fault of their own. At the same time, these 10 breeds are well known and liked for a reason! They are all remarkable in their own way, and being an owner of the #8 breed this year, I can't help but feel a little proud that so many other people feel the same way I do about Dachshunds!

Research is everything when it comes to choosing a dog which is one of the reasons Becca and I thought we would write our own reviews on each breed in the top ten. The other reason would be that we take any excuse to discuss dogs. ;)

We'll be posting two or three at a time over the next week, so feel free to check back!


(All photos courtesy of www.AKC.org)

#1. Labrador Retriever by Becca

The Labrador Retriever has reigned supreme as our nation's most popular dog for 19 years. Not only is this breed exceptionally common in the United States; many people also consider Labs to be the most common purebred dog in the world! As the owner of a Lab mix myself, I can certainly attest to many reasons why they are so popular.

The Lab is a very versatile dog. You have likely seen them serve roles as hunting companions, service dogs, therapy dogs, drug and bomb-sniffing dogs, competing in obedience and other types of competitions, and also as a family pet. Their high food drive and typically happy-go-lucky nature make them a gem to train (although they may require firm handling, as little will faze the jolly Lab - both a blessing and a curse, as far as the breed is concerned). They are playful, friendly, and, as a general rule, have a solid nerve structure. Due to their original purpose as a hunting dog, a typical Lab has a high pain tolerance (as they were bred to run through the brush), a gentle mouth (to better retrieve and carry a kill), and an indifference to loud noises (such as gunfire). Such a winning combination of traits makes the Lab a wonderful family dog, working dog, and companion. But, keep in mind that not all Labradors are created equal (and this is the case with many breeds). Field-line Labs are bred to hunt. They often make better working dogs than pets as they will have an abundance of energy and the drive to work all day long. Show-bred lines are not created with the sole intent to use them as hunting companions, therefore they may better suit families looking for a more laid-back family member. As I have learned firsthand with Gabe, Labs and Lab-mixes love to put anything and everything in their mouth. This is ideal when training your dog to retrieve a toy. However, Lab owners must be vigilant in supervising their dogs; otherwise, they run a high risk of ingesting all sorts of objects and foods, and this can pose a risk to their health.

The earliest Labradors were black in color, but the American Kennel Club now recognizes yellow and chocolate as acceptable coat colors as well. The size of a Lab can vary greatly, ranging anywhere from 55 pounds to over 100 pounds (although the AKC considers anything over 100 pounds to be a major fault in this breed). This is partly due to the existence of the two lines of Labs discussed earlier. Field-line Labs have a lighter frame with longer legs and narrower faces than their show-line counterparts. Show-line dogs are stockier in stature with broad heads and often have a thicker coat. Labradors of both lines have webbed feet and a water-resistant topcoat, making them excellent swimmers. Due to the breed's extreme popularity, potential Labrador owners should take great care in selecting a dog due to the health issues that come with over-breeding.

#2. German Shepherd Dog by Becca

The German Shepherd is said to be one of the most intelligent breeds that exists today. This intelligence, combined with athletic stature, strong protective instinct, and a loyal nature has skyrocketed German Shepherds to immense popularity as both household dogs and as working dogs in the military and police forces. Originally used for herding sheep, they are skilled scent-detection dogs and have also been used as guide dogs for people who are blind. In the intricate protection sport of Schutzhund, German Shepherds prevail. I have even seen German Shepherds become avid swimmers and retrievers. These things truly make them one of the most multifaceted breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Like any other working dog, German Shepherds can vary in appearance depending on what they are bred for. Those bred from show-lines are most commonly tan or red with a black saddle and tend to have a sloped back like the dogs you often see in the show ring. Dogs hailing from working-lines may differ in color from show-lines (such as a more rare color of sable or solid black), and their drive levels and energy can far surpass dogs from show stock. Regardless of background, German Shepherds are highly active dogs that require plentiful exercise. They are also known for being rather vocal, a trait commonly seen in herding dogs as well as something that is desirable when doing protection work. Additionally, due to their protective nature, German Shepherds require diligent socialization and training as they can otherwise become over-protective of their families and territory. Over-breeding of these dogs has unfortunately resulted in some nervous, skittish specimens of the breed. It has also contributed to a high incidence of hip and elbow dysplasia. For these reasons, it is crucial that potential German Shepherd owners select a reputable breeder who strives for healthy dogs with sound nerves.

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